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The Art Of The Pitch: 13 Tips From BGV Pitch Competition Winners

Updated: May 9, 2021

Photo by Rebrand Cities from Pexels

Black Girl Ventures wants to ensure that you're ready to secure the bag in honor of small business week. The art of the pitch is crucial to raising capital for your business. Many of the most successful ventures in the world began with a simple pitch. You could have a totally "fire" idea, but you won't win if you cannot persuade someone to invest in you with the promise that you will follow through with your idea. It sounds harsh, but it's true, and Pitch Competitions are proof positive of this fact as many businesses fail because they aren't able to communicate their added value.

With pitches come a few nerves. But have no fear—BGV has curated these specific tips (and a bit of inspiration) to support you on your entrepreneurial journey of consistently securing the bag. Here are 13 pitch tips from past BGV pitch competition winners:

1. Hannah Davis Founder of Vikara Village

"Remember; you know your stuff. You know it all. It's in your head and your body."

2. Michelle Smart Bags to Butterflies

Michelle says, "Never give up. You have to be passionate about what you're speaking about. If it's something you're passionate about, then talk about it from your heart. I love the ladies. I love what I do, so it's easy for me. Practice your pitch and stay true to your mission. And share your story."

3. Iyin Akinlabi-Oladimeji

"Just do it. You just have to do it and get over it. You'll gain more confidence the more you do it."

4. Bianca Maxwell, Founder of Skinary App

Her advice is to practice with yourself. Then pitch to friends, pitch to the camera because this helps with the tone and pace. Your friends can provide you with the feedback you need to tighten your pitch. Take a little time to understand your pitch deck design because it's still a form of marketing. This helps you to figure out how your branding can breathe into your pitch deck because it's a deck that you'll consistently share with investors or other potential partnerships.

5. Shana Vieira , Founder of INVY

"The lesson I learned during this pitch competition is that preparation is key, and if you don't prepare, you're preparing to fail," Shana said. Despite practicing the pitch, the minute she started to speak, she forgot everything. But Shana spoke from the heart because she knew her product from the inside out. Knowing her why and the impact she wants on the world helped her through the pitch competition.

6. Khadijah Robinson The Nile List

Khadijah has solid tips for those who would like to enter and win pitch competitions. She advises leveraging your platform by getting people involved, not just watching your pitch but watching everyone's pitches because she believes in supporting dope Black women.

She says activate your social media and get your cheerleaders involved by asking them to share the pitch competition event. But, most importantly, get to your point and keep it brief. Be formulaic, and hit the things that you need to hit. Lastly, watch other people's pitch decks. She spent time reviewing Airbnb and Uber's pitch decks.

7. Sasha-Loriene McClain, Founder of Black Girls Who Paint

The BGV pitch practices help entrepreneurs to get laser-focused on their delivery and clear on their message. "It's not the type of feedback that this went well. There were direct questions that pierced my soul. Exactly what I needed to hear, no sugar coating and no one was afraid to tell you something that could benefit you," she continued.

She says for those preparing to pitch to have a strategic plan regardless of what stage your business is in. Have a plan but be flexible. She suggests starting with broad milestones but then niche down as much as you can. Don't wing your pitch, she says. Follow the instructions and the resources that BGV provides, attend the pitch competitions and pitch practices.

8. Ehime Eigbe, Founder of Sweetkiwi

If you're looking to perfect your pitch, Ehi suggests, "I think it's important to pay attention to the pitch training day. I think that even outside of winning, it's learning something from the whole process so you can take something back with you that's going to make you a better entrepreneur and a better business owner. But when it comes to winning, it's a voting competition, and you have to be aggressive."

At first, she shied away from reaching out to people because she didn't want to bother anyone. And when she didn't see the word winner next to her name, she couldn't sleep and felt restless. Ehi decided to get on the phone and call as many people as she could from 6 a.m. to midnight.

She called and said, "I'm going to need you to vote. I said to myself that I had to push the competition. I put some effort into this. Why not push it all the way? I also realized it's one of the things that makes me successful in what I do is I don't give up that easily. I don't give up. It's that tenancy, no really, I had my husband sitting there with me on the phone, telling him to call all his friends," she laughed.

She didn't give up. That's the tenacity. What she also realized is that people now knew what she does. They knew she owned a business, but people didn't know the details of her business. From there, she received more support, more feedback, and more people from her immediate community purchased her products. The key lesson here is not to forget to utilize your personal network.

9. Judith Dumorney McDaniel, Founder of A Man's Cave LLC

Judith shared, "What was great about pitch practice—I call them my pitch practice sisters. They all gave us feedback every week. I would take that information and make enhancements to it. And every week, they kept saying you just gotta get better and better. And then also helped me with my slide deck. I didn't even have my slide deck together."

When asked what advice she would give those who are looking to enter and win pitch competitions, Judith had this to say:

"Be passionate when discussing your business because it really will help others get excited when you're asking others to be the shark, to invest in the contest if you will. You definitely need to go to pitch practice so you can know the important elements of pitching. You definitely need to do your research when it comes to the numbers and be prepared to answer any questions that the judges may have.

And lastly, you need––and this is a big one. You really need to have thick skin. You want to be able to embrace constructive criticism that comes with all the whether you like it or not because that's either going to make it or break it for you as to whether or not you'll move forward with pitching."

10. Kendra Woolridge Founder of Janet & Jo.

Her advice to others is to be receptive to feedback, do the pitch practice offered by Black Girl Ventures and take nothing personally. "Everybody there, these women are full of love and support, and they have a wealth of knowledge," Kendra recalls her pitch deck before the pitch practice and the pitch deck after the pitch practice and says the contrast is tremendous. She further says don't be discouraged or feel threatened by businesses similar to yours because everyone has their calling and lane.

11. Portia Mathis Founder of BarBella Co.

Portia's advice for pitch competition participants is to research the resources applicable to your industry, see which ones you're interested in, and apply, even if you have reservations that you might not win. "You won't know unless you start..get comfortable with making yourself uncomfortable, and once you do that, you'll find opportunities in the strangest places," Portia said.

12. Alon Otis, Founder of The Beet Box

Alon shared some valuable advice about pitching, "Get advice from other people, when we look at stuff, we look at something that you made, of course, you look at it like it's perfect and when somebody else looks at it they can easily spot the holes in it. Be receptive to what other people have to say and don't feel like you need to take in everything. Your heart and your gut will kind of tell you what needs to be changed." Ultimately, you make the final decision, but people outside of your business are objective. She further shared, "Don't be too sensitive and not open to critique."

13. Dominque Townsend, Founder of We Optimize Work

"Your pitch is your opportunity to show where you seek to hold space in the world—approach it like that. Remember that mission, like what was that mission, that started you to have this urge to want to pitch, to put yourself in front of people you don't know.

Talk about what you seek to do, keep that mission in mind, and come out how you want to be seen in the world. Pitches give you the opportunity to market to other people. You never know who's listening to you, who can connect you to someone just by you showing up, be clear in your mission being clear how you seek to make space in this world.

Utilize the opportunity. Believe in yourself and use it as a marketing opportunity because you never know who hears you just by taking just one step. I used to pitch to win until someone told me pitching is a marketing opportunity. You pitch it. You market it. Judges are always looking for certain things, but you're pivoting to a market and sharing a platform with others.

That took the pressure off of me. You pitch when you show up. Every time you pitch, you're already winning because so many people leave their ideas, who leave their pitches, scripts of what they wanted to pitch, and leave slide decks on Canva. They leave their pitches on pieces of paper, and they never take them off the paper. They never cement. They never put their names in the hat. You decided to show up. It's huge—you're already winning."

There is no denying the power of a pitch, and the role it plays in securing business funding. For entrepreneurs and investors alike, the pitch is a moment to get a lot of things right. It’s a chance to communicate value and make someone believe in you enough to part with hard-earned cash. We hope you feel inspired and motivated to take action towards your first (or next) pitch competition. Let us know which tip you enjoyed the most!

Subscribe to the Digital Orange Juice for juicy ideas and the people who fund them. You can find out about our next pitch competitions here. Also, be sure to join our new community BGV Connect!

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